Facebook Games. Press lever, recieve food.

psychpost | 6/07/2011 10:25:00 PM

This post will be about facebook games and other simple time consuming low-end games. I will be relating them to the idea of a Skinner's Box. For those who do not know what is Skinner's box is, it is a cage where a small animal is kept and is rewarded (by food or water) for completing a task (lever pressing or switch pressing).

Popular facebook games like Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars, and other Zynga-like games seem to be based upon the idea of the Skinner's Box. for example in Farmville the user is taught how to plant crops by clicking on squares and picking their crops. After a certain amount of time they are allowed to click on their crop to harvest them. Upon harvesting they receive a reward such as in-game currency and experience points.

While this may just seem to be a farming simulator, there is more behind it. These games make it seem that the users are free to do whatever they please. But if crops are not harvested in a certain amount of time they will wither and you will not receive any rewards for planting them (effectivley punishing the user). Also once the user reaches higher levels, they are required to do much more crop planting in order to receive experience points that matter.

In a way the game forces users to "play" more or they will not receive any noticeable rewards or they will be punished.

20 responses to "Facebook Games. Press lever, recieve food."

  1. I remember this Skinner's Box idea. It kinda relates to these games, but I think there's gotta be something out there that fits a little better. If I knew my psych better I could offer a suggestion, but alas, I only took three classes.

  2. This also takes advantage of the 'sunk cost fallacy', I believe.

  3. interesting how these people use psychology to unscrupulously make money..

  4. Haha nice post!

  5. don't know what ppl see on farmville :)

  6. It amazing how much thought and study go into making such simple, stupid games.

  7. ugh i hate farmville. cant believe people waste money on that game

  8. hahah farmville so addictive!

  9. farmville...haha...starcraft is just farmville with attack motion :)

  10. so what's so fascinating about farmville? the feeling of having an obligation while online?

  11. Great post. Concise and detailed. Thank you for sharing!

  12. looking good, man!

  13. Wow, this sounds just like TF2. The more you play, the more items you get.

  14. never thought of it that way and it makes total sense... :0
    i stopped playing it months ago. it gets boring easily.

  15. Terribly stupid game, you pretty much summed it up.

  16. Its interesting how ideas like this are implimented into everyday things such as farmville, its scary to think about

  17. Yeah, have to agree that all of the Zynga games use the sort of a conditioning. Whereby, when the players spend more time playing the game the more gifts and items they get and it is shown in game.
    Tricky tricky Zynga, using conditioning psychology to their advantage...

  18. Just like Team Fortress 2. You play, you get drops like weapons or hats.

    And then you use said weapons and trade metals for hats. People even pay hundreds of dollars for hats that doesn't even contribute to the gameplay.

    But recently i've read Zynga is worth more than EA. That is just wrong on so many levels.

  19. ewww

  20. Honestly, I feel that WoW is a great example of using a reward system to keep players playing the game. It may not be a "perfect" example of a Skinner box type system, but it definitely has roots in the concept and overall idea of Skinner's box. However, I feel there is definitely a level beyond operant conditioning, although it seems as though OC plays a significant role in a person's addiction or sustained playing of games.

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